caesar must die

Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

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This year’s New York Film Festival ended on Sunday night with the world premiere of Robert Zemeckis‘s Flight, a big Hollywood movie that many saw as too mainstream a selection for the event. But it’s apparently decent enough to currently have a very high rating on Rotten Tomatoes — our own Jack Giroux gave it a “B” in his review from the fest — so it’s not like they closed things out with Alex Cross. Other big movies that some didn’t see as fitting were opening night film Life of Pi (review)and the “secretly” screened debut of Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln (review). However, for the most part the 2012 programming was the typical New York cinephile’s dream smorgasbord of highbrow indies and foreign films. And these seemed to mainly meet the approval of our two primary critics covering them, Daniel Walber and Caitlin Hughes (both of whom are new additions to the FSR team and did an excellent job). And all together, our 22 reviews of NYFF features averaged mainly in the range of “B” to “B+” grades. And the only thing to get less than a “C” was Brian De Palma‘s Passion, to which Caitlin gave a “D.” We weren’t only interested in new works, either. Caitlin had some fun with the anniversary screening of The Princess Bride, while Daniel had requested that one of his picks of the fest be an older film: “If I can say the new (Dolce and Gabbana funded) restoration of Satyricon that made its […]

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Paolo and Vittorio Taviani went to Rebibbia Prison to cry. Years ago, the pair took a trip to an all-inmate performance of selections from Dante’s Inferno that made them weep more than any professional theater. A trip through Hell, after all, is an appropriate choice for a theatrical production conducted in a maximum security prison. One of the inmates read the tale of Paolo and Francesca, perhaps Italian literature’s greatest narrative of doomed romance. Yet in the context of the prison it was even more potent. The man paused to tell the audience his own story, asserting that no one knows the tragedy of impossible love like an inhabitant of Rebibbia, locked away from his beloved for the rest of his life. Between their tears, Paolo and Vittorio decided to shoot their next film behind those walls. The result is Caesar Must Die, Italy’s official submission this year for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. The Tavianis worked with the prison and its arts program on a production of William Shakespeare‘s “Julius Caesar,” filming the rehearsal process and final performance. More than that, however, the brothers scripted around the play itself and created a semi-documentary film that follows the internal life of the prisoners alongside their theatrical performances. The inmates not only perform as Shakespeare’s Romans but also as fictionalized versions of themselves. The result is a 76-minute tour de force that packs more punch than many a three-hour adaptation of “Hamlet” or “Henry V.”

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